Why can’t you wear white after Labor Day?


Where does the saying “you can’t wear white after Labor Day” come from? A fashion historian has looked at the age-old question.

SAN DIEGO – There’s the old adage that you’re not supposed to wear white after Labor Day, but where does it even come from, actually?

“I have no idea,” Leila said as she took advantage of a day at Encinitas beach to mark the start of September. “I think it was just a weird thing someone said once maybe on a TV show and then it stuck.”

To better understand this pressing issue, News 8 turned to Jeanne Reith, assistant professor of fashion history at San Diego Mesa College. Reith said she was a costume designer for many years and along the way researched the historical periods that inspired her costumes.

Regarding this Labor Day question, Reith looked back about 130 years ago. She said it all started with the elite class of the Golden Age who wanted to rise up and go their separate ways.

“They would not only buy different clothes, take the ships to France every year and buy French designer clothes, but they would also make certain rules, and one of the rules they had – because they were going to their residences. summer – was summer, we are wearing white, ”Reith said.

Sure enough, Reith said the color white became a status symbol in the 1890s until the early 1900s.

“During this time, whites become more popular, especially trying to look like you are playing tennis even if you don’t,” Reith said. “One of those reasons is also that people imitate movie stars.”

Reith said the change in dress also symbolized a change of season.

“You don’t get that kind of wealth by sitting down, so it’s hard working people who go to town and work September through May, and then they go and play in the summer,” Reith said. “So when they left that summer vacation home, they put their whites away and put out their wools and colors.”

So if the color white is for summer, does this rule still apply in a place like San Diego that enjoys summer sun long after September?

“I think there’s a completely different rule for us, especially where we are and Hawai’i, but you can always replace that white with a piece of linen in a different color,” Reith said. “I mean, linen can still work and still work, but you don’t have to be white as a lighthouse in the fall here.”

So what do San Diego residents think about this old rule?

“Yes, I don’t see why not,” said Leila. “Personally, I think white is the best color for most people. Makes you look tanned. Very Californian.

After all, Labor Day is Monday, September 6.

“It’s just old, old stuff,” Alex said. “If you want to wear white on this day, go for it.”

Reith pointed out that some stores – like H&M and Bloomingdale’s – have already released their fall collections.

“Once it gets to the very end of August, the colors will change in the stores, so take a look at the shelves,” Reith said. “Next time you go shopping, check it out. You will even see the end of the pastels and you will see this rich color – rich fall colors will come in at the end of August to tell you that you are in another era, to tell you that you are back to work.

This photo of the Hotel Del Coronado illustrates this trend from the early 1900s:

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